MURRAY, Utah — Intermountain Healthcare has reached a significant milestone in the battle against COVID-19. The healthcare provider has now processed more than a million COVID-19 tests, nearly a year after the virus was first detected in the United States.
“This milestone highlights the important role laboratories have played in combating COVID-19 and keeping the public safe,” said Karen Brownell, assistant vice president of laboratory services at Intermountain Healthcare, in a news release. “I’m so proud of what our caregivers have accomplished. From our curbside caregivers who collected samples in triple digit heat and the freezing cold, to our lab caregivers and scientists across the Intermountain Healthcare system who process samples 24 hours a day, we’ve met the challenge head on to serve the community.”
Intermountain Laboratory Services completed the one-millionth test on January 28.
The lab can currently process 7,000 tests per day, and 90 percent of those tests have results within 24 hours.
"It was a different story back on March 13, 2020, when the lab began processing the first COVID-19 tests that arrived to be completed," the news release says. "On that first day, the laboratory team performed 14 tests. By mid-week, they were up to 204 tests a day. Initially, a lack of available testing supplies and equipment made it difficult to expand the lab’s capacity. Every time different supplies or new tests were introduced, laboratory clinicians had to develop new rigorous processes to ensure accuracy before it could be used."
According to Intermountain Healthcare, most COVID-19 tests are conducted on saliva samples, but the most accurate tests are the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which are performed on samples collected from the back of the throat, behind the nose.
“The results of a COVID-19 test don’t just have consequences for patients, but for everyone around them,” said Dr. Bert Lopansari, Intermountain Healthcare's associate director of infectious diseases, in the news release. “We don’t want patients to have a false sense of security based on negative results from less accurate tests when they may truly be infected. Our commitment is to provide the highest quality, accurate test possible.”
During a news conference Tuesday, Dr. Lopansari spoke on the importance of continuing to practice basic measures to stop the spread of COVID-19.
"There's a lot of thing to be optimistic about. We're in a very different place than we were a year ago, but we have some work ahead of us still. So, it's very important for us to maintain use of masks and social distancing and do the right things to limit and minimize spread of this, prevent spread of this in the communities," he said.